Villagers

Darling Arithmetic

VillagersDarling Arithmetic
8
Similar to how W. B. Yeats dreamt away humdrum city life on the Isle of Innisfree, Villagers' Conor O'Brien stole away to the privacy of his country-home recording studio, north of Dublin, to conjure the charm of his band's latest album. The newly bearded bard escaped the daily grind sometime after the release of {Awayland} in 2013 and wrote, produced, and engineered a record that's, ironically, laden with everyday life. But Darling Arithmetic — Villagers' third full-length record — is anything but trite: O'Brien manages to inhale stuffy themes of love and heartache and exhale fresh retellings.
 
Darling Arithmetic is a nine-track walk out of the studio and into the country air. At times, the album's easy pace belies the singer's difficulty with love and relationships, but the songs' stroll, and O'Brien's witty use of chiasmus lines like "We got good at pretending then pretending got us good," provide time for us to breathe a little (especially after the steady gallop of {Awayland}).
 
O'Brien's trudging, hand-to-the-plough effort to understand himself, and "what it all means," is inspiring rather than tediously indulgent. The single "Hot Scary Summer" has that laidback, free-bird folk groove that makes Damien Rice's O oh so good, and the album's title track shares the lovely seaside moodiness of Scottish balladeer King Creosote's Diamond Mine
 
It's more of a challenge to pin down Villagers' second single "Courage." The tune's unconventional, but nevertheless catchy, chorus melody trails off in an unexpected direction when O'Brien casually croons "let me tell you, yeah" — a part of the line that sounds like it's coolly improvised.  But there's a sense that he isn't really "telling" at all; rather, he's showing us, through highly evocative moments, that he's walking out his feelings concerning a love that isn't always loved back. It's just unfortunate O'Brien doesn't love the idea of a ten-song album. (Domino)
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